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June 2007

June 14, 2007

CX n.o. for FCC (Woodford Green 10/6/07)

Woodford Green at home (of course) on 10th June 2007. A fixture that will live long in the memory of the most excellent Mr John Clifford, for it was this game where he scored his first ever century; a magnificent innings of timing and subtle touches on his favourite old Chigwellians pitch.

Alan of Woodford Green surprised me when, on winning the toss on a warm summer's afternoon, he chose to field first. I was relieved not to have to face the irritation of the Chigwell troops, but aware that this reflected a lack of confidence on the part of Alan. Next step was to decide on a batting order, the side replete with talented willow-wielders. After much consideration I gave the openers' slots to Rob A and John. Rob had performed well on difficult pitches and deserved a crack at an innings on the Old Chigs shirt-front; John had had no luck so far this season, but has been batting well and similarly deserved his opportunity. Of course I could have made a case for Alex, Harvey, James, Oli or Nick too, but that's captaincy for you.

I was not disappointed with my choice. Rob and John settled in, then tucked in to the bowling. The odd ball bounced a bit early on, but with this storm weathered, and a very difficult chance off John to backward square survived, progress become smooth. A century stand was achieved by the 24th over, and half-centuries were soon posted by each partner, Rob winning the race by an over or so. On 57 Rob fell to a juggled catch at square-leg having picked out the fielder with a well hit pull. 129 for the first wicket was an encouraging start!

Harvey entered the dance-floor and looked pretty good, especially his straight six, a beauty into the car park. While he was whistling his way to 37 in 27 balls, John was retaining his composure and continuing to accumulate quality runs. The 55 run stand for the second wicket ended with Harvey sending another attempted heave high into the air, to be taken by the keeper. Alex took the bull by the horns and continued the assault, scoring 10 off 5 balls before hitting one in the air to mid-off, the third wicket falling on 200.

As Oli joined John in the combat zone, all thoughts on the boundary turned to the possibility of a ton for John. It seemed likely as the now mud-streaked opener (he had dived to avoid a run out a little earlier) was showing no signs of fatigue, and seeing the ball like an over-inflated fluorescent football.

As the moment neared the comrades around the scorebook prepared to acclaim their hero, but John, apparently, was unaware of how close he was. When he pushed the single that took him to three figures he had to ask Rob, the bowler's end umpire why we were all cheering.
"That's it mate - that's your ton!" exclaimed Rob.

John sank to the ground at first. We thought he might kiss the Old Chigs turf, but after holding his arms and bat aloft he rose and leapt on Rob clinging koala-like to the BGC for what seemed like minutes. What I didn't realise at the time was that this was not just his first century for Chigwell, but his first century for anybody! Hard to believe, given his talent, but there you are: a life ambition achieved, and in such style.

The innings closed on 253 for 3, Oli hitting 24 in no time, including 5 boundaries. A powerful batting display from the team, with plenty in the tank, lets keep it up for the rest of the season! It was certainly a long way from the nadir of our batting performance at Broxbourne!

The quality of the tea at Old Chigs seems to have improved a little too, thankfully. The teams took their time over eating it and the benefit of a slightly early declaration was squandered.
Ultimately the second innings was an anti-climax, with Chigwell unable to extract 10 wickets from the Old Chigs feather-bed. Tim Hall opened the bowling, with me at the other end. We tried to keep Woodford Green interested, but they never really got near the rate. Brad and Nick bowled well, Brad taking a wicket thanks to another stupendous catch at slip by Rob, Nick taking 3 after an early struggle to find his length. In all 5 wickets fell and the game petered out.

But what did that matter as we sat supping from the jugs of John and Rob, watching the sun set over the Buckhurst Hill horizon? John had achieved his ambition, and now he revealed his next; for Chigwell to appear in the village cup final at Lords! Might need a bit of work that one...

Man of the Match.... Rob Allum for his unstinting support of John during his celebrations. Oh, all right then - John, obviously, 110 not out!

June 07, 2007

Not a Winning Draw, not a Losing Draw, but a Drawing Draw. (Ingatestone 3/6/2007)

A glorious summer's day provided the canvas on which was painted the most sporting of drawn games, neither side showing quite enough control at some times, and not enough adventure at others.

With the toss conveniently lost, Ingatestone got stuck into the opening attack. Frank displayed signs of an indulgent Saturday night as his first two balls pitched somewhere near his feet and drifted gently wide. After an expensive first over Frank steadied himself and bowled well, but alas no wickets. Rob A was harder to get away at first, but steadily the runs scored from each over increased and things began to look ominous. There was a massive contrast in style between the Ingatestone openers, the right hander spanking all and sundry to all compass points, the left hander prodding a defensive bat at most offerings. Ritchie - great to have him back - replaced Frank and bowled 2 maidens at the prodder, then went for 14 in his next over to the tonker.

So the opening stand was at 73 or so, with tonker looking imperious. Who you gonna call? The partnership-breaker. Brad bowled one ball to the lefty, which went for a bye, then struck first ball to the right-hander! It did require the help of an amazing athletic one-handed catch by Imran at deep square-leg, but Brad produced once again when it mattered. Imran set a
fantastic standard in the field, one particular dash around the boundary to prevent a four equalling the catch in its excellence.

With tonker gone the run-rate fell dramatically, the prodder in particular finding it hard to score. Wickets fell too, and the game was suddenly transformed, with Chiggers holding the upper hand. Brad completed a fine spell, a catch from Richard securing a second wicket for (in Nigel's words) the "Relationship-breaker". I took 3 wickets, which was enjoyable in itself, but included the left handed opener and opened the way for more aggressive batsmen to smash my bowling, and that of Richard (who had one caught and one dropped by the skipper at deep mid-off), to the boundary and beyond. This also coincided with panicky fielding which yielded a few over-throws and mis-fields. Eventually the innings was declared on 212, probably about par. We bowled 43 overs in 2 hours and 50 mins, which isn't an impressive rate notwithstanding the heat and the frequent ball-hunting in the nettles or bushes beyond the boundary. The young ladies in what Rob described as "the peanut gallery" did nothing to help.

A slightly prolonged tea was followed by a brief opening partnership between Rob A and John, the latter departing to the ball of the day, jagging back to wriggle between bat and pad. Never mind John, Old Chigs next week! Alex was once again stylish and graceful, and looked set for a big score before misjudging a second run and departing run out. The decent opening bowler
continued to weave his spell, which finished with four consecutive maidens. Nigel and Rob formed a doughty pair, and when the ball was hit it always seemed to go to a fielder, or in one instance was smashed (by Nigel) into the arm of his batting comrade at the non-striker's end. Thus the first 22 overs produced something like 50 runs and it was a daunting rate of about 8
an over that was required in the last hour.

With the opening bowler out of the attack the runs began to flow, but progressively virtually the whole fielding side was pushed out to patrol the rope, and boundary scoring became difficult. Nigel eventually perished for 23, victim of one of the few catches that stuck - at least 8 were dropped - and James joined Rob in a spirited chase for the line. Rob finally fell for 83 hard-earned runs, and Imran came and went, perishing in the sort of run out that desperate run chases engender. I joined James, but by then the game was up, with 24 required from the last over, all fielders still on boundary patrol. The innings closed on 200, scored from 42 overs, James on 42 not out.

In all 412 runs were scored for the loss of 10 wickets during the course of the game and it was by no means a boring draw.

Man of the match - Imran for his superb fielding display, especially the catch that put some fire into our bellies.